This will go beyond the current crop of hit and miss social media activity and evolve into an always-on, multi-screen digital narrative that is carried across paid, earned and owned media.
Programmatic is playing a crucial role in making paid media more flexible and accountable, but its transformative potential for brands continues to be directly dependent on their awareness of the possibilities.
In partnership with WARC, IAB Europe and Circle Research, AppNexus completed an extensive study of programmatic adoption in Europe in May and found that 25% of client-side marketers had never heard of programmatic, while 79% of media buying agencies are using it. This disconnect results in paid media being omitted from many real-time marketing strategies, diminishing their potential impact and undermining cross-channel initiatives.
The rapid growth of programmatic is built on the ability it gives advertisers to stop using media as a proxy for audience and instead to target and engage individual users. Today’s technology allows multiple advertisers to collaborate with publishers; using their in-house and external data to inform advertising decisions in less than the 150 milliseconds it takes the page to load.
The key to bringing paid media into the real-time digital world is transparency and understanding. Programmatic shouldn’t be seen as something magical and unknowable, instead, brands must be able to understand how the data is working in order to make better decisions.
Similarly, it’s important that marketers’ concerns around ROI and viewability are addressed. In some respects, it’s possible to overthink this problem. It's not easy to get reliable figures for whether a billboard is being viewed, or know for sure that a consumer glanced at the exact section of a magazine where a print ad has been placed. However, because digital advertising offers a unique level of insight into viewability, it’s incumbent on the ad tech industry to ensure a workable solution is offered to brands and marketers.
Almost everyone in the industry today accepts that technology can be used to make marketing better, but few would agree that machines will be solely responsible. Programmatic is a better toolkit for brands to find and engage their audience online, but creativity and intuition remain vitally important to the stories that those brands tell. Indeed, the IAB Europe and WARC research recognises that as campaign execution becomes simplified, more energy and inventiveness can be transferred to other elements, with 61% of respondents saying creativity will improve as a result of programmatic.
With IAB Europe and IAB UK both publishing recent studies that show digital spend increasing and display advertising growing in relative importance compared to search, programmatic is both the present and the future of the industry. By accelerating paid media to real-time and demonstrating both accountability and transparency – the growing importance of technology in advertising is inevitable.
Both now and in the future, programmatic can create a virtuous circle in which more relevant advertising is served to the consumer, who buys products from the marketer, who pays the publisher, who can subsequently create better content.
That’s a future in which the internet is better for everyone.